I met my abuser online. I didn’t meet him in person for several months but spoke to him online and on the phone regularly. He was very charming and easy to talk to. Not long after that we entered a relationship.
Soon after starting the relationship, I would notice that my abuser did things that would upset me but he would always explain it away and tell me I was imagining things.
He would get very agitated if I spoke to friends or family and at one point threatened to hurt himself when I was on the phone to my dad unless I immediately hung up.
The violence soon escalated and I clearly remember the first time he became physically violent. He pushed me and my head hit the corner of the kitchen bench, causing it to start bleeding.
I told him I needed to see a doctor and went to get my phone to make an appointment but he took my phone off me and refused to give it back until I promised I would not seek medical attention. Eventually I agreed but he made a rule that I had to ask him before making or receiving calls. Over the years, his violence got worse and included physical, sexual, psychological, spiritual, verbal and financial abuse.
My abuser became more and more controlling until eventually I had to ask his permission to leave the house. He would tell me what clothes to put on, how much make up (if any) I was allowed to wear. I had to ask him for money for things like food for my kids.
Every night he would go through my Facebook to make sure I was not talking to anyone about him and if he decided he didn’t like someone he would remove them from my Facebook. Then he would go through my phone and any number he didn’t know he would delete.
When the violence first begun I thought it was a phase and there was something bothering him and I thought I could help him, I soon learnt to fear him and for most of the relationship I would walk on eggshells scared of upsetting him or causing an argument. I was terrified.
I coped by trying to do whatever he wanted so to try and keep him as calm as possible. I would spend a lot of time imagining my life without him and that seemed to get me through the really bad days, I would plan how I would leave but I was always too scared to do it, I thought he would kill me if I did.
When I left…
One afternoon my kids were misbehaving and he became violent toward them. I knew I had to act so I told him to leave and if he didn’t then I would call the police. Eventually he left but was violent in the process. I no longer cared if he had a place to stay or where he was going, I was just glad to be free of him.
I spoke to safe steps and they organised for my children and I to go straight into emergency accommodation. It is always in the back of my mind that he may do something but I try to live my life without letting the fear take over. I am a lot happier now and have moved on to a new relationship which is respectful and healthy.
As an Advocate…
I recently completed Survivor Advocate training with safe steps. I found the training to be empowering. I feel like I have gotten my voice back. Many of my friends don’t know the full extent of what happened to me and I always felt at a loss of words to try and explain it. But being an Advocate has given me the tools to be able to tell my story and explain family violence to those people who may not understand the cycle of abuse or why women stay in violent relationships.
To anyone reading this who is experiencing abuse…
I would tell anyone living with family violence that they can leave, there is help out there to leave safely and stay safe.
Making that first call for help will be one of the hardest things you will ever have to do but I promise you, it is worth it.
To the broader community…
To the community I would say to speak up if you see family violence happening, offer help, call somebody but do not stay silent. Family violence thrives on silence and breaking the silence may just save a life.
safe steps recognises that survivors have been among the most powerful activists for change regarding societal attitudes towards family violence. By courageously sharing their stories, survivors have raised community awareness about abuse in the home, and pushed for important political and sector reforms.
We share the stories of some of our safe steps Survivor Advocates to ensure their powerful experiences are heard by even more people, and honour the important contribution each woman has made as an advocate and an activist.